Michigan Reporters Give To Liberal Candidates, Causes (Like that’s a shocker!)
Dedman scoured online public campaign finance reports and found 144 journalists who contributed to political campaigns and causes between 2004 and now. Of that number (and I know loyal LBC readers will be shocked) 125 — or a whopping 87 percent — gave to Democrat or Left-leaning causes. (Three Michigan journalists made the list; more on that later.)
The MSNBC report also found that news organizations varied greatly in their policies dealing with the activism of their staff, ranging from strict prohibition to nothing at all. When I was hacking for a living, it was made pretty clear to me by my editors that I could not: date the interns, drink at my desk, use profanity in my stories, and participate in partisan causes.
I managed to play by those rules, mostly because they were common sense. “We cover the news; we don’t make it,” is the adage I and countless others heard coming up through the ranks. I didn’t need a written policy to know I shouldn’t give my money or time to a candidate, even if a paltry amount.
Now, if journalists think it is OK for them to give to political causes, they should publicly disclose that. I wonder how readers/viewers would react if they got to the end of the story and read or heard a disclaimer that went like this: “Oh, by the way, they guy I just wrote about, I gave him a $1,000 check last month”? I am pretty certain the public would take a dim view and hold such reporting in suspect. But that’s just me.
Now, back to the three Michigan hacks who ponied up…they are (Click here for complete list and lamo responses from 144 the journalists):
Susan Hall-Balduf, a Detroit Free Press copy editor, gave $300 to John Kerry in July 2004. Now editing news copy, she gave when she was in features. Here’s what she said:
“I was scolded,” Hall-Balduf said. “We did a story on how easy it was to look up these records on the Internet, and they were not happy to find a couple of our own people on the list. But I made the point that I worked only in features, and I never edited any stories that have to do the election. I was told not to do it again. I wouldn’t do it again. But at the time my job was focused on the doings of Britney Spears.”
Joel Thurtell, a Detroit Free Press reporter, gave $500 to the Michigan Democratic State Central Committee in September 2004. Here’s what he said:
“Whatever the Free Press policy is,” Thurtell said, “I actually have my own policy about that: I’m a citizen of the United States. I have a right to support whatever candidate I like.”
Thurtell said his political views don’t influence his reporting, as demonstrated by his role as a reporter on the stories disclosing the ways that Democratic Rep. John Conyers used his congressional staff to run personal errands and do campaign business.
“I got tons of e-mail from liberal-type people who likened me to Karl Rove. I have tried to be as honest as I possibly can as a reporter.”
Terry Judd, reporter and chief of the newspaper’s Grand Haven bureau for the Muskegon Chronicle, gave $1,900 to the Democratic National Committee in six contributions from 2004 through 2006; and $2,000 to John Kerry in March 2004. Judd let his editor do most of the talking:
“You caught me,” Judd said. “I guess I was just doing it on the side.”
The paper’s metropolitan editor, John Stephenson, said appearances of a conflict do matter. “We run letters all the time from people who say we’re right-wing this or left-wing that.” He checked with the paper’s senior editor and found that the paper has no written policy on donations, but he said it will consider one now.
“This information makes us want to think further and more deeply about what we encourage and discourage in reporters,” Stephenson said. “We have always historically said, ‘You guys can have any political beliefs you want, just don’t wear your hearts on your sleeve, or your bumper. Truthfully, this sort of thing may be the new bumper.’ Ten years ago, you may have to have waded through a mountain of paper to find this stuff. We are rethinking. It’s OK to do something if our readers don’t know it? Is it all about appearances, or is there more principle here? It’s an interesting question.”
Thursday, June 21, 2007
An interesting post over at Bill Nowling's site, Lunch Bucket Conservative.